The degree will give students interdisciplinary training across the history of art and architecture, said Patricia Morton, chair of the UCR Department of the History of Art. Only a handful of U.S. universities offer specialized studies in the history of photography, none of them in the UC system, she added.
“We are a small department, but we have an international profile,” Morton explained. “Approval of this new degree program by the University of California reflects the excellence of our faculty and the high quality of our existing M.A. program.”
Applications for admission in fall 2014 are due Jan. 5, 2014.
The art history department currently offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees, with the M.A. providing entre into gallery and museum work. “We have very productive and quite prominent alumni in these fields,” Morton said.
In recent years, high-profile museums and art galleries such as Southern California’s J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and Huntington Library have demonstrated a preference for personnel with a Ph.D. for professional positions, she added.
“We’ve been losing quite excellent master’s students who also wanted a Ph.D.,” she said. “Our Ph.D. graduates will be better-equipped to secure positions both in the academy and the museum world, as well as potentially pursuing careers in art criticism, the art market and auction houses.”
Art history has been taught at UC Riverside since the university’s founding in 1954, first within a department of art, and since 1974 as a separate department within the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS). The department is known for its expertise in the early modern/Renaissance period to the present in Asia, Europe and the Americas, with many of its faculty considered leading researchers in their fields.
The Ph.D. in art history was approved by the UC Academic Senate in May and will fill a gap in UCR’s graduate programs, which have lacked a doctoral degree in the history of the visual arts, said CHASS Dean Stephen Cullenberg.
“The addition of this Ph.D. program is a logical expansion of UCR’s graduate offerings,” Cullenberg said. “It will advance the university’s research agenda, provide graduate education in a critical and growing cultural field, and complement flourishing programs in other UCR humanities and arts departments.”
In a world of digital communications, visual images play an increasing role in how we perceive our environment and society, as well as how we present ourselves, explained Morton, who is known for her research on modern American and European architecture.
“In the 21st century visual competence and media literacy is central to critical thinking across the spectrum of the liberal arts and sciences, technical fields and professions,” she said. “The historical study of art, architecture and visual culture provides the understanding and the language necessary for analyzing space and images and recognizing their social impact.”
Advanced research in art history underpins the programs and displays of today’s museums, she added, noting that the study of museums forms a subspecialty within the field, in which UCR has several experts.
Students who want to specialize in the history of photography will benefit greatly from the UCR/California Museum of Photography, which houses one of the country’s most significant collections of photographic equipment and a major collection of 19th and 20th century photographs, Morton said. Renowned art museums and galleries in Southern California provide research and internship opportunities for students studying the history of sculpture and architecture as well.
“Art history reflects on the formation of the modern world and the way art and culture have been part of the development of modernity,” Morton said. “It helps us understand what’s different about the period we live in and how those differences are reflected in modern culture.
“We plan to be the Ph.D. program for the 21st century: small, attentive, intensive; and committed to producing scholars who take a global, interdisciplinary approach to the history of the visual arts.”